This week’s post is written by my colleague and friend Isabel Hernandez. It’s a day later than usual, but that’s my fault, not hers, as I was off for a few days after a minor medical procedure.
It has been a little while since my last contribution to The Library Time Machine, and I am long overdue on this blog that, really, should have been written several months ago. It was during this time that I was fortunate to have met local photographer, Peter Dixon, during an exhibition that was held in the Central Library and organised by the Gloucester Court Reminiscence Group. On display were some fantastic photographs he took in the 1950’s and 1960’s, mainly of the North Kensington and Paddington areas, which had never been seen before. So, it’s with great pleasure that I am able to share with you some photographs that Peter Dixon was kind enough to give us as part of the Local Studies collection.
Later on in the postscript I will add a link to the website that shows more of Peter’s work and also how the project came about. I think you will find it of great interest, and is well worth a visit.
First, some photographs to pique your interest.
Above is one of my favourite images of the Harrow Road showing the New Red Lion pub. It has that magnificent lion on the top which I imagine must have been red. I’m probably stating the obvious, but it was before my time and I never saw it before the pub was demolished. To the right is a billboard advertising lager, just in case you fancied something other than your usual brew.
The New Red Lion was one of many pubs in the area, but it is listed in the directories (at least) since 1902. It survived many decades and probably served a good number of those employed by the Great Western Railway. As well as the station there were several wharves, Goods yards, and the Grand Junction Canal. Enough to keep the pub busy with workers enjoying some respite.
If alcohol wasn’t to your taste, there might have been the possibility of some milk. To the right of the Westbourne Bridge, practically next door, there used to exist a number of cattle pens, evidently serving a dairy that must have supplied the local area.
Beyond the Westbourne Bridge was Bishop’s Bridge Road. Some of you may remember the Bridge Café. But here I digress.
Above Is the junction between Lord Hill’s Road and possibly Westbourne Park Crescent. Familiar territory for those of you following the Paddington blog posts. What’s great about the following images is how Peter captured the local people. He was able to snap images of people going about their business or posing. Children, particularly, were often seen playing on the streets. In those days we didn’t have the technology or the means to amuse ourselves with the current plethora of indoor entertainment we have now. We spent more time outdoors, making up our own games.
A young lad on his bicycle possibly looking at the strange, if not cheeky, graffiti on the pillar of the house in front of him. Most of the houses in the area at this point were condemned for demolition to make way for the new Warwick Estate.
A bonfire burning fiercely to the left of the image. The gentleman in the foreground could be one of the workers in the area burning flammable items (wood perhaps) that might have resulted from the obvious destruction of the old houses once the bulldozers moved in. Safety helmets and formal attire were not compulsory at the time so it’s difficult to say if this was a construction worker, or a local resident. In the background you can just make out the eerie shadows of the new blocks that were going up almost as quickly as the terraces were being demolished. The past and the future, as I have probably mentioned in previous posts, was very marked during this period of redevelopment. It’s not unlike those glass behemoths being built all over London today giving everything a futuristic flavour.
St Mary Magdalene to the right, next to what I think was Woodchester Street. All the existing streets at the time were later demolished, rerouted or renamed. In the background is a tobacconist with the title: The Boar’s Head Tobacco, and a grocery shop: I &S Jones, advertising what looks like, Benedict peas. It would appear the premises were already vacant and no longer serving the local community at this point. There is a large ‘Sold’ sign between the two stores.
A young lad squints into the sun as Peter takes the photograph. His shadow visible on the right of the image.
Two chaps smiling at the camera. Peter did say that people were generally very friendly and obliging when asked if they could have their photo taken. It was considered something of a novelty.
A really nice candid shot of a group of gentlemen clearly enjoying a joke.
And here’s another wonderful image of some children being candidly themselves sitting outside a convenience store. Confectionery of any kind was always considered a real treat and the young lad in the middle is clearly enjoying a lollipop as he poses for the camera.
Two boys crossing the footbridge that links Formosa Street with Lord Hill’s Road, separated by the canal.
The footbridge no longer exists as you see it here. It was originally built by the canal company, taken over by the Metropolitan Board of works, and later conveyed to the vestries. I used to call it the dodgy bridge. It always seemed so destitute and neglected. Every time it was newly painted, it wasn’t long before the graffiti would leave its mark and time would strip away its freshness.
I used this footbridge frequently whenever I walked towards, Warwick Avenue, Maida Vale or to the library in Sutherland Avenue. It was replaced in the 1980’s, perhaps early 1990’s (if I remember correctly) by a far nicer, more open footbridge that has a better view of the canal and the surrounding area. The Paddington Stop pub as I remember it (now a gastro pub called The Waterway) was on the corner, and all the wharves that existed opposite Clarendon Street over the canal were all eventually pulled down and the area became residential with the Amberley Estate built as part of the redevelopment of the area.
The bridge with the canal and Delamere Terrace in view. The terraces you see were subsequently demolished and replaced by the flats you still see today as part of the Warwick Estate. The lady in the image appears to have, what looks like, a wash bag with her. Not an uncommon sight at the time. The luxury of having a washing machine is a relatively modern concept. I distinctly remember in my early years my mum taking our laundry, with us in tow, to the local launderette on the Harrow Road. It was next door to the off-licence, just before Cirencester Street. The interminable waiting for the washing cycle to end rendered me bored most of the time, so I would often have a library book with me to ease my impatience.
The same side of the bridge. Only here we see Blomfield Road where the difference in housing was evident. The villas that still exist along this side of the canal were a marked contrast to the terraces opposite. We always remarked on this distinction. ‘Posh people’ lived here! Perhaps these gentlemen were moving in?
A fantastic photograph taken from Delamere Terrace showing the wall that divided the street from the canal. The footbridge was flanked by a house, and at the foot of the stairs you can see a slightly leaning telephone box that seems, in my fanciful mind, like it doesn’t want to be there. The leaning phone box of Paddington was not there when I moved in, but neither was most of what you see in this image. Railings had replaced the wall. The roads were resurfaced and newly paved. Even the trees and lampposts were replaced. It wasn’t just the buildings that went, but much of what furnished the rest of the streets too.
This is another favourite of Peter Dixon’s Paddington photographs that I think summarises this particular area nicely. One to end this post on. He took this in 1964 – a few years after he first started photographing the area. By this time a lot of the new flats had been built and the tower blocks were going up. The Warwick Estate, with the elegant St Mary Magdalene as its centre piece, was nearing completion. A few new blocks were still to be insinuated into the fabric of the LCC plan, but it was almost done. The area was opened up and became less crowded. The wall by the canal was taken down and eventually replaced with railings. The canal sidewalk would be paved and made more accessible to the general public. And yet…in the foggy distance to the right, the buildings of old were still awaiting their fate. As with all the photographs I have talked about in the Paddington blogs, the juxtaposition between the old and the new is stark.
Interestingly, to the right of the image you can see a canal boat. Nothing unusual. The canal was always a working waterway, used to transport goods and sometimes passengers. But with the decline of the canal transport industry and the deteriorating condition of the waterways beginning to show, it was the leisure industry that helped to revive interest in the canals. Although the pool at Little Venice was always intended for pleasure boats, there was no obvious leisure service. Summer excursions from Little Venice to Camden Town, was really only just started in 1951 by John James. That’s his boat in the background. The company still exists to this day. I remember a number of trips to London Zoo in Regents Park from here and the echoing tunnels as we passed through. Fond memories of a long ago childhood.
Firstly, I would like to thank Peter Dixon for allowing me to use these images for the library blog (all copyright is his). Thanks also go to Maggie Tyler and the Gloucester Court Reminiscence Group for their contribution in bringing these marvellous photographs to light and the exhibition that ensued. For more on this please visit:
I hope you have enjoyed revisiting this part of Paddington again. I have been reading all your comments and reminiscences from previous posts with interest, and realise just how many stories there are to tell. With this in mind I would like to tell you about the St Mary Magdalene’s website which references an oral history project that is collecting stories about north Paddington from anyone who wishes to contribute.
George Kambouroglou is the heritage officer working on this oral history project as part of the St Mary Mags church development. The oral history project looks at historic north Paddington and the surrounding area. So if anyone is interested in contributing their memories, please contact him directly at George@pdt.org.uk .
Thanks for reading!